“Developments comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people.” (Book Climate Capitalism, Capitalism in the Age of Climate Change, authors L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen (2011) pg 172, taken from Elisabeth Rosenthal, “In German suburb, Life Goes on Without Cars” New York Times May 11 2009)
What is drive ‘til you qualify market?
It means accepting the forced trade off between affordable housing and a long commute. One study has found that approx. 57% of income is used on the combined costs of housing and transportation. (Climate Capitalism, pg 173 # 86)
This is apparent in the newer outlying Southwest Tucson, Sahuarita, Oro Valley, Marana, and Vail Planned Urban Developments (PUDS), where there is limited transportation other than by car.
There is an established link between greater car dependency and mortgage failure in sprawling, auto dependent areas. This seems to make sense if 57% of our income is going towards house and car. Not only is a car payment made but home owners must pay for car insurance, gas, maintenance. Dual income earning households living in urban areas may experience even higher costs with a necessary two car lifestyle. As well, an oft forgotten externality, or cost, is a high carbon footprint.
“Economic success requires the availability of urban amenities such as mass transportation” (Climate Capitalism, pg 173 #88 Scott Bernstein). Bernstein has shown that communities that offer mass transit increase their real estate tax base, but also that homes within them hold their value better than does the market at large, even during recession.
Another study by Chirstopher Leinberger, a Univeristy of Michigan real estate scholar and author of The Option of Urbanism states, such developments are more desirable to live in. Walkable urban properties cost on a square foot basis between 40% and 200% more than suburban homes. (Climate Capitalism, pg 174 #89)
Transit oriented residential development is becoming more popular around the world especially as climate change issues and energy costs sweep communities.
Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary announced that his department would no longer favor “motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” He also said in 2010, “Walking and biking should not be an afterthought in roadway design.”
It has been proven that people who bike or walk to an area spend more money than those who drive to the same location. (Climate Capitalism, Pg 175 #94)
Transportation choices drive the design of cities and suburbs, determine where we live, work, and shop. Much of our life is structured around how to move and store cars. Where the car culture predominates anyone without a car is relegated to second-class citizenship.
Cities around the world are saying no to cars or at least putting cars on their terms. Policies have been put in place to encourage the creation of urban space that is not dominated by cars. Curitiba Brazil uses a hybrid of light rail and buses called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
BRT designates lanes for buses and encloses and elevates bus stops. The system works like rapid transit with fares paid on entry into loading enclosures. As the bus arrives, big doors open, everyone gets on or off, and the bus is gone. At rush hour there is one minute between buses. (Climate Capitalism, Pg 171 #77)
Congestion pricing is another way to deal with cars; a system which charges cars to enter a city center when it is crowded, and spending the resulting revenues to strengthen public transit, is a livable-city approach that has been used in London and Singapore.
Some cities have banned cars from entering downtown. In 2000 the British government began a comprehensive effort to discourage car use by requiring that all new development be accessible by public transit, stating, “Developments comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people.”
Tucson has an opportunity now to make downtown a livable city, with a higher tax base, lower car emissions and greenhouse gases, and a sought after attractive community. Britain has implanted designs well over a decade ago. Cities such as Curitiba have devised strategies for their carless mostly low-income populations. C40 Cities in the United States are leading the way in sustainable urban designs.
Tucson must listen to the many sustainability experts in the community that have vast experience in sustainable and urban development. Let’s stop looking for a panacea from outsiders who will design it then leave, or good ‘ole boy sweetheart deals. Once these out of state developers are gone the local businesses and residents are left with the bill and there is a larger margin of economic failure.
The newer Tucson Modern Street Car can be the foundation for a high walk score and bike friendly downtown. The villa designed Mercado San Augustin, located near the end of the Street Car line at Congress just west of I-10, can be the charming anchor needed for retail, restaurant space, and a beautiful gathering space. Tucson attracts visitors because of our weather, blue skies, clean air, and plethora of outdoor activities. We can capture this health revolution by becoming MORE, especially for the aging baby boomers. Tucson can be the health and wellness hub of the country. This can be accomplished by working with burgeoning local organic farmers, farmer’s markets, farm tours, southern arizona organic wineries, high quality farm to fork restaurants and the exploding foodie revolution. We can take advantage of our world class posh wellness resorts such as Canyon Ranch and Miraval. We can expand our holistic health centers to work alongside our exceptional hospitals.
Tucson can become more than just a place to get out of the cold, but a place to become centered again, de-stress and rejuvenate so that we can get back to our busy lives wherever in the world that may be.
To compliment the health & wellness market Tucson must truly become a walking and bike friendly city. Tucson can do this by taking advantage of "The Loop", the over 100 mile Rillito River Walk path that circles the city. Investing in a “blue” bike rental program like the one in New York City, or Canada would truly pay off. Tucson can create more walkable neighborhoods by continuing the Mayor's 10,000 tree planting campaign and then installing more sidewalks.
Finally, in order to become a high walk score city, Tucson needs to construct a mass transit BRT system modeled after major modern cities such as Curitiba. In the near future the COT must switch to an all electric fleet of buses, which will allow the city to expand services by lowering costs of operation, and will curb carbon emissions. This will keep our blue skies blue and make Tucson THE hub for health and wellness, our niche and most outstanding economic strength.